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Pastor Retires From Texas Church Where Gunman Killed 26 People in 2017

Members of First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, Texas, gather around their pastor Frank Pomeroy and his wife Sherri Sunday, Sept. 25, after Pomeroy preached his last sermon as pastor. Courtesy of Baptist Press.

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (BP) – Frank Pomeroy was hunting in the wet and cold Alaskan bush when the Lord gave him his final sermon as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.

Considering the grizzlies, black bear, wolves and rain, Pomeroy suspected the message would somehow encompass creation.

“But God kept bringing me back to, this was an opportunity for me to share what’s important for the church to continue on,” Pomeroy told Baptist Press, “and that’s when He … led me to Paul’s letter to Ephesus (Acts 20) and we just went from there.First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs presented a cake to Pastor Frank Pomeroy to mark his 20 years as pastor of the church. The cake celebrated Pomeroy’s consistent messages despite extreme hardship — Love never fails; Evil did not win. Submitted photo

The tragedy First Sutherland Springs weathered when a gunman killed 26 worshipers and wounded 22 others on Nov. 5, 2017, is perhaps the memory the church’s name most readily provokes. But First Sutherland Springs has ministered since 1926 in the small community of less than 1,000 people, 20 years under the leadership of Pomeroy.

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“What really brings Sutherland Springs together over these 20 years is that there really is a true sense of relationship and family,” he said. “And therefore, we have always been very inclusive of the community, and that the church would be the center of the community, whether it was during a tragedy or in the good times.

“High on the mountain or low in the valley, there’s always been a true sense of family with those in the community. And that’s the thing I think I cherish the most, is that love never fails, as Paul said, and that love will extend to everyone who will come and listen to the Word.

“I think again, if we can be remembered as promoting and making sure everyone knew that that pulpit was never my pulpit, it’s always God’s pulpit,” he said, “and as being God’s pulpit, He’s reaching out to whomsoever that will listen. And the defining thing would be that that church is not the building, it’s the body, and the body should be out including everyone.”

Pomeroy and his wife Sherri have sold their home to their youngest son Korey and daughter-in-law Ashley, downsized their belongings to a camper trailer and are planning a brief road trip before returning to Texas, perhaps for a campground ministry. But he’s not certain of God’s plan.

Their 14-year-old daughter Annabelle was among those killed when Devin Kelley walked in the church and began shooting indiscriminately in what remains the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history. Kelley fled the scene and shot himself to death.

The church survived the tragedy by choosing victory, Pomeroy said.

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“We could have been validated by the world to choose hate and ugliness and play the victim card,” he preached, “or we could choose to say we are not victims, we are victors. We choose to put our faith in something greater than ourselves. … I don’t understand, but I know I can’t go back and change what’s already done, but I choose from this day forward to say, ‘Lord, You are in control.’ And God has taken that, has made Sutherland Springs a lighthouse on a hill.